Some of the most notorious settlements – for example, in Hebron, Sheikh Jarrah or Silwan – are based on the claim that settlers are “returning” to places held by Jews before the creation of the state of Israel. It’s interesting to note, therefore, that in most cases, descendants of Jews that lived in those places oppose the projects undertaken in their name.
Check out this letter to the editor, from today’s Haaretz:
…The settlers in Hebron have introduced the method of searching for pre-state Jewish property to undermine the situation created in 1948… My mother’s family lived in Hebron from the beginning of the 18th century or even earlier. In 1880 my great-grandfather Rabbi David Eliezer Melamed and his brother Haim Yehezkel Melamed bought two apartments in Hebron next to the Eliyahu Synagogue. I have the purchase contract. The contract is approved with the seal and signature of Hebron’s “young” chief rabbi, Rachamim Yosef Franco, as required during the Ottoman period − approval of a document by the head of the religious community.
As is true of veteran Jewish residents, there are tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs who have papers proving ownership of property in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, Tiberias and Safed. It is folly to try to turn back the clock to 1948.
I hereby declare that I fully waive any right of possession in Hebron. I am not a stranger to settling the land, nor do I oppose it; on the contrary. I have been engaged in settlement all my life, beginning with the establishment of Tel Katzir on the Syrian border in the demilitarized zone east of Lake Kinneret.
The difference is that back then settlements were built out of a perception of the overall picture, not to seize every hilltop. We settled to stabilize the borders, not to distort them so that it would be impossible to reach the necessary territorial compromise.
Hebron can serve as a good example for teaching students to distinguish between messianism and reality.